I was always interested in architecture, always assumed that I would go to architecture school. One summer, I had a program in high-school and after that I have never had a crisis about whether I wanted to be an architect. My question to myself is what kind of architect do I want to be. Right now, being a retail designer allows me to incorporate my other professional interests, like branding and fashion.
I met Moira about one year and something ago. I still remember my first encounter with this rock-star blonde girl, who was wearing a furry hat, on a cold February. I was not so glamorous in my workshop clothes…but, hey, I am not so sure if it even matter what outfits were involved; when two focused women meet, as I was to learn soon, the business discussion starts right away. I couldn`t ask for more; usually the rule says that small talk should be done first, so people can become more comfortable one with each other; I personally like to do it afterwards, for one reason: I want to invest all my attention into your reason to meeting me. If it`s business we will talk business right away, it it`s more personal that we`ll take it that way. Either way, I will always want to learn more about you as a human.
After a first great collaboration, I wanted to deepen my connection with this young professional, so committed to her work and clients, with an immaculate design approach. During our encounters I have learned about her educational background, as an architect, and why did she decided to follow the design path. Currently she is working as a retail/environmental designer at Gensler, based in New York City. Previously she served for BCBG MaxAzria on new design concepts and retail trend research, specifically for BCBG in France and BCBGirls in Doha, Bahrain and Dubai. She was also project designer for the Revolve Clothing showroom in Los Angeles, South America and special projects for Clinique. A good international experience, to rightfully serve New York City`s demanding design market.
Is education more important than experience?
In the real world, professionals can be roughly divided in two: those who`s experience follows education, respectively who`s education follows experience. Twisted? It means either you become a designer (trade case) by diving in real projects and learning about the trade on the go, or you enrolled in a school design and then take the evident step of real projects. I needed to know what Moira was thinking about this controversial subject.
I think that education is important because it exposes you to certain ways of thinking that you might not have. Education is a luxury: you read and learn things that enhance the design process and make for a richer experience for the end user, enables you to meet certain people, but it does not prepare you for the real world at all. I went to both University of Illinois and sci-arc and I would say that they are extreme ends of the spectrum, and neither prepared me for work. So in school, there is no accurate representation of the real world. I took an internship the summer of my thesis and treated it like a class; apprenticeship is important, but you need to find someone who actually wants to teach you. I was very lucky that when I first started my boss cared about his employees. I think that there is a lack of urgency from students about the reality and nature of the design world, and that worries me. As a designer I am always learning, I do not regret going to school. I see it as an expensive right of passage. I would not change my decisions.
For every designer there is one or many projects close to his/her heart. That type of projects that brought joy and fulfillment or which changed something. I kindly asked Moira to share with us some of hers. To my delight, the list is not short, nor boring! Enjoy the pictures below:
One of my favorite NYC projects that I have worked on is Rufskin, and it was one of my own built projects that I did not work on in house or for a firm. It was refreshing to work on a men’s clothing store, since I was a designer for beauty and women’s garment retail. The clients were really wonderful, based in San Diego and one of the partners is NYC based. Rufskin has a clear vision of how they want the brand perceived and when a client has a strong story, it becomes clearer as to what the experience should be. The idea for the store was that San Diego meets New York. It was San Diego with a bit of Palm Springs.
The store plays with the dualities of a Rufskin customer, a completely glass dressing room can switch to a concealed VIP room, and a gallery slicing through an experience of well crafted leather to a swimwear section. The store reflects a carefree attitude, and it is located in a prime shopping area in Chelsea, so it was a great experience from a design perspective and as someone who lives in Manhattan.
One of the collaborations that I think was a success and will generate future works was creating the cashwrap and hanging fixtures with Open Square Inc. It was good in that we were all focused on making a good product together and doing our best to not compromise the design. I would say that I designed one of my favorite cashwraps with this project, and it was all to Open Square and their team. There are these cool bronze rams heads that hold up a glass piece, highlighting an accessories area, the layers are really cool.
A interesting project that my friend mentioned was a research, done with a collaborator. Who decides to document closing store in New York City? I had to know more, so using her own words, Moira, gave me an insight:
Primespace is one of my favorite projects that I collaborated on with Danielle Willems. It was during the height of the recession, when a lot of stores were closing down. Entire blocks first floors would be empty. Although we could not catalog the entirety of Manhattan, we did document key streets. The basic idea was to photograph the abandoned storefronts. A lot of the storefronts became billboards, which interested us.
Below are the photos documenting this research:
For a full picture gallery and more info, click on Primespace.
The next project contains a very unique idea for a retail store.
Revolve Clothing was a project that I was involved in with Silvia Kuhle and Jeffrey Allsbrook of Standard. I was involved in the design and the construction.
Revolve Clothing was a really great client that was looking to design a physical presence in LA that was flexible enough to sell product but also be an exhibition space. Standard is one of the firms in LA that does a lot of really nice retail work and it was great to be involved in the project.
In any type of business, making friends rather than connections is the ultimate goal. I am grateful that Moira allowed me to know her better, both as a person and as a professional. I feel that her work can and will inspire other creative minds! But it might be just me under the spell of blonde charisma and great design taste, so what are your thoughts, as an objective reader?
I look forward for your comments, and for any article proposals, suggestions or collaborations feel free to contact me!
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